In an Elitist Congress, Top Lawmakers Are Worth $1.6 Billion

Sep 17, 2011, 5:26 am EDT

As Congress takes up the American Jobs Act in the coming months it will be deciding, among other things, whether or not to extend payroll tax breaks, prevent teachers from being fired, continue to assist the unemployed and spur hiring of the long- term unemployed.

This particular package of legislation sits in the midst of Congress’ usual array of concerns that effect the average American: raising (or not) the minimum wage, making health care more affordable, preventing foreclosures and ensuring that seniors receive their fixed incomes every month.

Given the import of these tasks, it’s useful to note how different the financial priorities and experience of Congress are from our own. Or put more bluntly, how out of touch these rich folks are with the vast majority of Americans. Read 

3 Years After Lehman, We’ve Learned Nothing

Sep 14, 2011, 8:31 pm EDT

On Sept. 15, 2008, the world learned a debt-riddled Lehman Brothers would be no more. The Dow dropped more than 500 points that day, and a month later the index was off about 25%.

And that was only the beginning.

The corporate carnage that followed doesn’t deserve rehashing, since nearly every investor has a personal point of outrage. There was a death sentence for dividends, including a 68% cut in General Electric (NYSE:GE). There was the race to the bottom in the entire financial sector, with American International Group (NYSE:AIG) plunging 90% in seven trading days that fall. The list goes on. Read 

Greece: The Questions Investors Should Be Asking

Sep 14, 2011, 11:17 am EDT

Will Greece default, or won’t she? This seems to be the question on every investor’s lips, and the uncertainty surrounding the outcome has the markets on edge.

I have no inside information about how this crisis will be resolved, and even if I had the phones of every European leader bugged, I’m not sure the information gleaned would be particularly useful right now. The EU leaders tasked with resolving this crisis seem to have no more of a grasp on the situation than those of us on the outside.

No one said investing is easy or that it should be easy. Investing is an exercise in making difficult decisions under conditions of uncertainty. If we knew the future ahead of time, there would be no risk and thus no possibility for return — or loss. Read 

Irony to the Rescue?

Sep 14, 2011, 4:00 am EDT

Now, here’s a role reversal. Stocks roared back in the last hour of trading Monday and continued their rally Tuesday — on rumors that China and perhaps also the other members of the BRICs quartet (Brazil, Russia and India) might purchase a huge quantity of troubled euro zone sovereign debt.

For anybody with the slightest sense of history, it’s hard not to smile. Back in the fall of 1998, the financial world was flailing in a funk because Russia had just defaulted on its debts. Korea, Indonesia, Thailand and other emerging Asian economies were fighting to stave off collapse.

Now we’re told the emerging countries might be preparing to bail out the likes of Greece, Portugal and Ireland — possibly Italy and Spain, too! Read 

Moves to Make Before the Next FOMC Meeting

Sep 12, 2011, 2:18 pm EDT

The decisions made at the next Federal Open Market Committee meeting on Sept. 20-21 could affect market performance for years to come.

That’s why investors should prepare ahead of time.

Of course, there’s no way to predict exactly what U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will do, but 20 years of experience in global markets suggest he’s considering five alternatives drawn from a rapidly diminishing menu of options: Read 

China: Going for a Knockout on Manufacturing

Sep 12, 2011, 9:39 am EDT

About a year ago, President Barack Obama toured Solyndra, a top manufacturer of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. It was a centerpiece of cleantech — and how it would reinvigorate jobs. As a sign of importance of the company, the Department of Energy provided a $535 million loan guarantee.

Unfortunately, it has turned out to be a disaster. This month, Solyndra filed for bankruptcy, shut down its manufacturing facility and terminated about 1,100 employees.

The problem? Well, it looks like China has been even more aggressive with its alternative energy investments. The result has been a substantial drop in solar cell prices. Besides Solyndra, two other major U.S. solar firms have imploded during the past month, which include Evergreen Solar (PINK:ESLRQ) and Intel-backed (NASDAQ:INTC) SpectraWatt. Read 

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